Buildings in Buildings: Close Encounters of the Architectural Kind

21 Oct 2020

The Hill House by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1902-1904) is widely considered a seminal work of early modern architecture. But today, after more than a century of saturating Scottish weather, the house is crumbling from water damage and needing renovation. In 2019, the first stage of works to stabilise the house and rectify its damp walls began in radical fashion with the “Hill House Box” by London-based architects Carmody Groarke. Like an oversized architectural raincoat, this roof and chainmesh-walled structure completely encases the house, allowing it to dry out before conservation works can begin. The design also incorporates a series of walkways through the interstitial volume, enabling visitors to observe the old building from new vantage points during its renovation. As such, the enclosure not only forms a protective case, but effectively turns the building—and its conservation—into a museological exhibit.

The architectural interest of the Hill House Box, however, lies in its close encounter with Mackintosh’s temporally and stylistically distinct design, and the perverse strategy of placing one building inside another. For this presentation, the Hill House and its new box highlight the peculiar architecture of buildings-in-buildings and, in particular, the creation of spaces that are not interior nor exterior, but both, simultaneously. Drawing upon a diverse array of buildings and texts, this paper will attempt to outline a theoretical framework through which such unique composite constructions might be understood. In particular, it will argue that while there are countless ways in which buildings that have historically become encased within other buildings, it is within museums and sites of preservation, like the Hill House Box, that these fantastic architectural encounters find their most exciting and emphatic expression.



Dr Ashley Paine is an architect and Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland, and is the current Director of ATCH. His research, teaching and practice are all broadly concerned with the history, theory and design of architectural surfaces, focusing particularly on issues of ornament, pattern, colour and the façade.

Image Credit: Johan Dehlin, from ArchDaily


This event is part of the 2020 research webinar series.